Thursday, May 12, 2016

Major Mistake Search Committees and Candidates Make

It was not long ago I was a candidate at several churches around the country for the office of senior pastor. The search process is stressful on both the church and the candidate. No one enjoys the process, but it is a necessary one. Now I'm on the other end of the spectrum helping our association search for a new Director of Missions.

In the years leading up to our transition and in the time since, I have counseled several candidates and churches and in my experience both sides make the same mirror mistake. Whether a church's experience with its previous pastor was positive or negative, most search committees judge potential candidates by their previous pastor(s). For example, if they were shepherded by a pastor who was more of a preacher than a visiting pastor and that experience was negative, the committee (and the church they represent) will look for the polar opposite. Or if they enjoyed the preaching of their previous pastor, they will likely pursue candidates who are carbon copies of him.

Candidates do the same thing. If a pastor had a poor experience at their previous church, they will pursue churches that are radically different. This explains how many pastors will swing between rural and metropolitan churches or between blue collar and white collar churches.

This approach can be dangerous for one obvious reason. By living in fear or even hope of our past we take our eyes off of what Jesus is doing now. A church critical of their previous pastor will fail to appreciate how God used him and thus will run the risk of swinging to the other extreme and find it just as disappointing. A pastor who allows his negative emotions to control him will bypass perfectly good churches worth their consideration.

The solution to this should be equally obvious: turn to Scripture and follow Christ. Churches must rediscover what a pastor actually is and pursue that candidate regardless of their previous shepherds. Candidates should rediscover the joy of ministry and pursue a congregation they can love and lead.

I am confident that if we learned this lesson our churches will be the better for it.

For more:
Moving Forward: Lessons Learned as a Pastor in Limbo
What Pastors Wish Search Committees Knew
It Goes Both Ways: Pastor Leadership and Church Submission
Two Types of Pastors: Lessons Learned from Presidential Leadership
4 Things to Look For in a Church
Hard Decisions SBC Churches Must Make Less They Die
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